This is why we got into continuing higher education in the first place
As Oregon begins the college graduation season, nontraditional students take a bow
Jennifer Brown cuddles deep under a comforter in the back seat when a pickup backs up next to her car in the empty lot and awakens her. It's 3:30 a.m. A man in his late 30s with dark blond hair gets out of the truck and stands by the hood, just a few feet away. After a minute, he gets back in his truck. Then out again.
She'd been sleeping in her 1994 Chevy Cavalier the four months since she left her boyfriend. She parks in the Shari's Restaurant lot in Clackamas because it stays open all night, and she can use the restroom.
She's 19, jobless, a Clackamas High School dropout living out her parent's expectations as the family black sheep, the slacker, the loser. Going back home isn't an option. Neither is staying here with this creep around in the depths of winter.
She slips behind the wheel and drives to her ex-boyfriend's. They're on good terms, and he lets her stay. In fact, he insists after they hear the news the next morning. The man in the truck raped a woman in the same parking lot after Brown left.
That was the last night Brown, who then went by her maiden name Marsh, slept in her car. And it was the beginning of a 10-year journey to California, marriage, community college and the University of Portland, where she picks up her bachelor's in business administration May 8. In fall, she's off to the University of Southern California to become an accountant